On Monday, the Maine House of Representatives voted 83-62 to approve LD 652, a bill that would allow state residents to carry a concealed handgun without a license. The bill previously passed through the state Senate in a 21-14 vote and if signed into law, will make Maine the newest state to adopt what many have called “constitutional carry.” LD 652 is now headed back to the Senate for review of two new amendments to the proposal, and if the amendments are kept, the bill will head straight for the desk of Governor Paul LePage.
A staunch defender of gun rights and a supporter of permitless carry, many expected LePage to eagerly embrace the bill, yet the governor has indicated his intent to refuse to sign the legislation if it comes before him. When asked on an interview with radio station WVOM on whether he would sign the bill as it left the House, LePage flatly stated, “No.”
LePage said that the reason behind the answer was because of the amendments made to the bill in the House, specifically one that required gun owners to be 21 before they can carry without a license.
“The reason why is in my office I have a picture of Wade Slack, who got killed in Afghanistan protecting the freedom of the American people and he was only 19,” LePage said. “I think it’s inappropriate and wrong to send our kids over to fight wars at 18, 19 and 20, but they can’t carry when they come home. I’m not buying into that.”
The governor added that he believed in constitutional carry, but that adding the age-limit amendment was a “slap in the face.”
According to Bangor Daily News, LePage has not yet indicated whether he would veto the bill or just abstain from signing it. If the bill is not vetoed, it could still become a law even without LePage’s signature. It is also possible that lawmakers would vote to remove the House amendments from the bill, in which case Governor LePage may be more receptive to signing it. Besides the age limit, the second amendment to the legislation requires those carrying concealed weapons to inform police that they are armed if they are stopped or questioned by officers.
The two new amendments are not popular among the bill’s supporters, but are seen as a vital compromise to get the bill passed. Opponents of LD 652 say that the bill will serve not only to make Maine more dangerous, but could also provide a loophole for those previously denied permits to now legally carry guns.
“I’m deeply disappointed that we were not able to defeat this bill,” Representative Lori Fowle (D-Vassalboro) told the Sun Journal. “I firmly believe that the permit process improves public safety in a reasonable manner. I am thankful that we passed the amendments that address the concerns law enforcement raised.”
Supporters of the bill argue that the permit system does little to prevent crime and only exists to hassle gun owners with avoidable delays. Lawmakers have also pointed to other states where constitutional carry laws have been successful, like nearby Vermont.
“It’s great that we have finally gotten to a place where people understand the importance of this protection and are comfortable enough to let our Maine citizens exercise the same freedoms that the state of Vermont allows their citizens to exercise,” said Senator Eric Brakey (R-Auburn), who sponsored the legislation.
Image is public domain